When an employee fails to perform at the required level, misses too many days of work, or acts in a way that is detrimental to an organization, it might be time to hand him or her a pink slip. But before bringing said employee into your office for termination, you need to make sure that all of your ducks are in a row. Dismissing an employee needs to be done without error if you want to prevent a legal battle. Unfortunately, we are all human and mistakes happen. Here is a list of the top ten mistakes made by human resources when dismissing staff.

  1. Failing to have a signed contract. Although it may be too late for this one, when you hire future employees (and for all current staff) it’s imperative to have them sign an employment contract that specifically states that the employment is “at-will,” meaning that they can be terminated at any time.
  2. Neglecting to create standard policies. If you want to terminate an employee for breaking a policy, you have to make sure you have that policy in writing. Even common sense policies should be written down and provided to employees if you want to protect your company.
  3. Providing too much information. When you terminate an employee, make it short and sweet. Avoid apologizing, and stick to the facts. Oftentimes employers make the mistake of making a termination personal, and this can put them in hot water.
  4. Lacking a file review. In many cases, an employer fails to review the file of the employee being terminated. If you state a specific reason for firing an employee, and it turns out the employee has had nothing but high remarks in that area, it can become problematic.
  5. Not having any real reason behind the termination. When the decision has been made to fire an employee, make sure to provide a clear, coherent reason as to why he or she is being fired.
  6. Failing to conduct a proper investigation. When an employee is being fired because an allegation has been made against him or her, make sure to follow proper investigation procedures. Failing to do so and firing someone prematurely can leave your company in a precarious legal position.
  7. aiting for the “perfect time.” There is no perfect time when it comes to firing someone. When the decision has been made, you should fire the employee within 24 hours, if not the same day. Waiting can cause a world of hurt, especially if the employee finds out ahead of time.
  8. Having no follow-up plan. You’ve finally fired the employee, so now what? The work is still there and the job still has to be done. Hiring a new person can take weeks. What’s your plan? If you don’t have one, you should.
  9. Arguing with the employee. This should be common sense. Don’t do it. It’s understandable that the employee will be upset, but arguing about it gets you nowhere.
  10. Letting the word get out. If you’re about to fire an employee and the word gets out, that employee might damage your company in some way. Make sure that the decision is made in confidence and acted upon swiftly, in order to keep morale up.

Let these common mistakes be your guide for what not to do when it comes to terminating an employee.  No one likes to be the bad guy, but sometimes firing someone has to be done.  Avoiding these top ten mistakes will help you get through this difficult task as smoothly as possible, while protecting your company from potential litigation and other damages.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

4 Comments

  • Avatar Larisa Plevna says:

    It’s one of the hardest decision that you have to take as an HR personnel. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I have trouble giving people bad news. And getting fired is one of the worst news you can receive, it’s a life changer. So you can bet your life that when I decide it’s time to fire someone, I have tried everything prior to that to make that person a more viable employee. And when it comes to papers that will back me up in my decision, I got even more than I need.

  • Avatar Rachel Raw says:

    These are all great ideas that I hope i will get to use as little as possible. Firing is not my special activity, and if I can do something to prevent that, I do it.
    But sometimes you really have to, and even if it pains you, you have to do it. Better safe than sorry.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Most of the times that I had to fire somebody was not because poor performance, but because of blatant disregard of work regulations. It was fairly easy to make my case to both the management and the person that was let go. Easy to understand, nobody was happy about it, but never had somebody that believed it was let go without proper reason. Hopefully that will be the case from now on as well, as I’d hate to get involved in any kind of labour related lawsuit.

  • Avatar John Spencer says:

    Rachel, I was recently terminated as Director after 19 years of service without any warning, no write up, etc. The reason why was Job Performance. No severance nothing. One employee went to HR because another employee she supervised did not show her respect. I counseled both individuals prior to HR being involved and both employees agreed to work on there communication issues. HR interviewed employees from the department the only (4) that complained about me were whose names came up during investigation and the 4 had received recent write ups for job performance, at no time were the other employees (12) were asked any questions ! I was then terminated. Do you think this was fair?

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